|Newspaper Title||Mercury and Weekly Courier (Vic. : 1878 - 1903)|
|Trove Title||The King of No-Land|
THEK(NG.GOF, NO-LAND. B-" Y BYE. L. FA&JEON.... CHAPTER XV.-continued. And now it is Neiw-year's night, and Sassafras- and Coltafoot are walking slowly to and fro outside the cottage, in the windows of which lights are gleaming. Every now and then Sassafras steps gently into the cottage and in a few moments comes out again and rejoins Coltsfoot. No word passes between them. A life dear to both is hanging upon the moments. Hark I a cry reaches their ears-a cry so faint that none but ears attuned to love could hear it. Coltsfoot passes his arm round his friend to support him, for on that cry a sudden dizziness has come upon Sassafras. Still neither speaks; but both are mutely praying that the life so dear to them may be-spared. The door of the cottage is softly opened, and a cheerful face invites Sassafras to enter. When, in a few minutes, Sassafras comes from the cottage, his eyes are filled with tears of joy and gratitude; he holds out his hand to Coltsfoot. 'Thank God !' he says, with a sob; 'all is well.' And then he turns from his friend, and muses upon the new and solemn responsibility which has entered into his life. Time rolls on. Men fret and chafe their hearts in pursuit of small things, which they falsely magnify into desir able possessions, and neglect the price less blessings and joys which nature holds out to them with willing, untiring hand. When Bluebell steps into the sunlight again, she has a baby at her breast, and into the fresh young beauty of her face has stolen that ineffable expression of holy tenderness which dwells only in the face of the mother. Ah, how happy are the days ! how sweet the evenings when she and Sassafras sit in their little humble room, gazing upon the child which has drawn life from them I Sassafras wants nothing, yearns for nothing ; he has about him all that can make life sweet. He is not poor, for he has enough ; and yet he has but little. But content is a treasure outweighing gold and silver, and this treasure he has. He looks back upon his past life with amazement at the folly of men,' and morning and night he thanks God that he has escaped from the thraldom which poisoned his days and made a slave of him. So happy is he that he trembles at the idea of discovery. But nothing occurs to disturb the harmony of his life. Besides, he is now a bearded man, and few would be able, to recognise him. What with his work in the day, and his duties in Coltsfoot's school in the evening, he is employed fourteen hours out of the twenty-four. He enjoys a glow of health to which he has hitherto been a stranger ; he enjoys the air, the sun shine, the breath of summer, and the invigorating breezes which winter brings in its train. 'It is true,' he thinks, 'that I am no longer a King, but I feel that I am a man.' He cannot quite banish thought of the past, although he strives to do so. He keeps himself steadily aloof from all political matters, and flies from them as though a plague were at tached to them ; but at odd times thought of No-land and his Court and people intrudes itself against his will, and seems to whisper in a tone of steel, 'Nay, I will be heard !' It comes upon him once-he is impelled by the same inward force, and cannot resist-to introduce politics into a conversation with Coltsfoot. They have been to hear a social sermon from the lips of a preacher, upon whom many of his brethren look with dis pleasure and aversion. Strange to say, this preacher is a Bishop. Strange, because he is not content with flowing platitudes; because with firm hand he grasps the nettle Danger in his search for the flower Safety; because he is unsparing in his denunciation of the follies and frivolities which pervade certain classes of society, and is bit terly severe upon those who make pleasure the chief blusiness of their lives. This Bishop thanks God that there are some few 'noble men and women rising above this utter animal ism, this low sensualism, and who do endeavour to realise that they have a duty to discharge to God and man,' and says, 'though philosophers may make themselves merry at the expense of Christianity, and though clever writers may run down so-called sec tarian schools, and think it the height of enjoyment to ride on the box of a four-in-hand or sail in a yacht, these are not the things by which a man may discharge his conscience to God.' Bitterly does he deplore that so many men and women in high places 'go through the world with blinkers over their eyes, shutting out the painful sights around them, or stop their ears with wool, so that they may not bear the cry of the fatherless; and yet these men and women have a sunny kind of belief that they are performing life's duties worthily, and that to be seen in a church now and then during the year is a cloak for their idle aimless hours and days.' These words make a deep impression upon Sassafras, and he says to Colts foot, as they walk out of church: 'The preacher seems to think that there is as wide a difference now between classes in No-land as there was before the diaappearance of the King.' 'You have been to happy in your domestic life,' replies Coltsfoot, 'to pay much heed to politics; and as I have observed, when I have introduced political matter into our conversations, that you have been desirous of avoiding the discussion of them, I have not pressed them upon you. But the change in the political condition of the country' has not, up to this day, re suited in a better state of things for the people. I think-that the man who was chosen to represent the opinions of the new governing power would confees as'much. The time was not ripe for' change. If you want a tree, after it has attained a full and strong rowth, to 'grow oneay-orthe-other, it ust be trained ierygently4. These men. demanded : ain impossibility. They asked for equality, and already they have shown thyseli'es utterly
unfit for govement.; already they are quar n among'themslves for place and pay. he flavor of Egypt's flesh-pots has proved too strong for theif patriotismi.' 'I have never heard you express an opinion,' says Sassafras, 'upon the action of the King in deserting his post.' 'He was both weak,' replies Colts foot, 'and wanting in a sense of duty.' Sassafras does not pursue the subject; and indeed presently it fades from his mind before the pressure of a deep affliction: -His child, so sweet a source of joy and happiness in their home, sickens and dies. The little one lies ill for many days and nights, and neither love, nor unwearing attention, nor heartfelt prayers can save it. The mother, in her care for her darling, begrudges the claims which nature makes upon her ; and even when, after long, .long hours of watching, sleep mercifully steals from her for a little, while the pangs of grief she suffers, she will not leave her darling, but lies by his side with her hand upon his neck, as though, by that tender caress, she can move the Angel of Death to stay his hand. In vain. The last hour comes surely, and in the dead of night the flower dies with the dim light of its parents' eyes shining upon it. Come from the chamber with me ; the grief of these stricken souls is too deep, too sacred for our eyes. They find consolation in their faithful love for each other, and a stronger con solation in prayer. In the chamber of death, with the inanimate form of their beloved before them, they see a light beyond the grave. It falls upon the face of their child, and he lives again, and stretches out his arms to them. So Bluebell anI Sassafras live their lives throughout three changes of the seasons. But this Christmas shall be the last they shall spend together in that humble cottage of love and content.